When Lark was eighteen, she ran away to join the circus. To be fair, it wasn’t so much “run away” as it was “announce to the family, say her goodbyes, and promise to write every week”. But when the caravan of Trader tumblers had come through town, she had become entranced. Every day she had been down by the wagons, watching from the sidelines, until a bright faced boy had chuckled and drawn her in, showing her how to tuck and roll and push off into a handstand.
As day moved into night and back into day, Lark had learned to cartwheel and roll and handstand. The caravan master, the troupe leader, had seen her enthusiasm and spirit. And the night before they left, he had drawn Lark aside. With flames from the fire lighting her face, he had invited Lark to join them on their travels. Unhesitatingly, Lark had agreed.
Traveling with the Traders, Lark finally felt free of the restraints of her expected future. A cartwheel opened doors, a back flip landed in the future. The bright faced boy had introduced Lark to his sister Yazmin, and Yazmin and Lark had created a routine with ribbon and flame that captivated all who watched. Dark skin twined with light as Lark’s ribbons flew through Yazmin’s fire, burning balls of cloth singing through the sky as ribbons tied to sticks danced in their wake. The crowd would gasp as the fire arched higher, as the ribbons just barely avoided going up in flames.
The caravan master used them to draw in the crowd, pleased with the coin that landed in their bowl. The young women would bow and laugh, and neither could explain just how their dance worked. Lark had been traveling with the caravan for over a year when one day she and Yazmin had fought. That night, ribbons broke from their sticks to choke out the fire, and flames dripped onto the ground around them. Yazmin had shut Lark out of their wagon, only to wake to the wagon flaps sealed shut around her. Lark, sitting in tears by the wagon wheel, had been found by the caravan’s mimander.
“Has this happened before? “
Lark shook her head, scared. “I didn’t mean to do it – I was just so angry,” she explained. “I don’t know what I did.”
The mimander had arched an eyebrow. “But you know you did something?”
“I… I got so angry. She shut me out,” Lark whispered, her head bowed. “And I thought, If you don’t want me in there with you, you best not come out here with me. And I glared – it was dark – and then Yazmin shrieked and could not find the opening in the canvas.” She looked up at the mimander. “What did I do?”
He drew her to the wagon and placed her hands on either side of the ragged opening where Yazmin had sliced her way out. “Close it,” the mimander told her. “And please open up the normal entrance.” Lark stared at him, but no more directions were forthcoming, and she turned her attention to the cloth.
The caravan had left Lark at Winding Circle, and Lark began again.